UN chief Ban Ki-moon withdraws Iran's invitation to Syria talks

UN chief Ban Ki-moon withdraws Iran's invitation to Syria talks

UN chief Ban Ki-moon withdraws Irans invitation to Syria talks

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon makes an announcement at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Jan. 19. AFP photo

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 20 withdrew an offer for Iran to attend Syria peace negotiations after Tehran declared it does not support the June 2012 political transition deal that is the basis for the talks.

"He (Ban) continues to urge Iran to join the global consensus behind the Geneva communiqué," Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said. "Given that it has chosen to remain outside that basic understanding, (Ban) has decided that the one-day Montreux gathering will proceed without Iran's participation."

Ban said earlier that Iran's public statement that it did not support the 2012 Geneva deal calling for a transitional government for Syria was "not consistent" with assurances he had been given by Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Earlier, Syria's main Western-backed opposition group gave an ultimatum, saying Iran must commit publicly by 1900 GMT to withdraw its "troops and militias" from Syria and abide by those terms, or the U.N. should withdraw the invitation.
"By 1900 GMT, they have to confirm that Iran is not invited to the conference or we will not attend," said Hadi AlBahra earlier Jan. 20, insisting that Iran's participation at the talks was "impossible".

Iran announced it had accepted an invitation by United Nations Secretary-General to attend talks due to start on Jan. 22 in Geneva aimed at ending Syria's civil war, the student news agency ISNA reported. 

"We have always rejected any precondition for attending the Geneva 2 meeting on Syria ... Based on the official invitation that we have received, Iran will attend the Geneva 2 without any preconditions," ISNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham as saying. 

Western powers have so far opposed Iran’s presence on the grounds that it had not accepted a communiqué adopted by major powers in Geneva in June 2012 calling for the creation of an interim government.

Regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which supports the Syrian rebels, also rejected Iran’s participation, saying it was “unqualified to attend.”

The accord at the so-called Geneva I talks made no mention of al-Assad’s departure, something the Syrian opposition says is non-negotiable. But Russia, another Damascus ally and its biggest weapons’ supplier, said Tehran’s absence would be a “unforgivable mistake.” 

Ban’s initial invitation came after Tehran vowed to play a “very positive and constructive role” in peace efforts.